Fireplaces can be delightful but also dangerous

Fireplaces can be delightful but also dangerous
Cold temperatures have sent chimney sweeps busy on the Coast. (Source: Lacy, Mike)

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The phone rings constantly these days at Top Hat in Gulfport.

“This is our busiest time of the year,” said Julie Steube, secretary with Top Hat Fireplace Store. “We usually get busy from October to … see, the phone’s ringing right now … from October until about January/February.”

Cold temperatures can be a big motivator to generate some heat. While a roaring fireplace can be delightful, it can also be dangerous.

Lucky for fireplace owners on the Coast, chimney sweeps are there to help make the cold nights warmer and safer.

While it’s best to get the sweeping done in the off season, it usually takes a cold front like the one this week to make people realize their fireplaces and chimneys need some tender loving care.

“We had this first cold snap come in. Now we’re booked up to about the middle of December, just pretty solid,” said Top Hat owner Bobby Sullivan. “And that’s a good thing, but people are not able to use their fire now because they’re waiting on it to be cleaned.”

Chimney sweep prices start at $150, and it’s worth the price. Why? Sullivan reminds people of the basic premise.

“You’re building a fire in the middle of your house," he said.

Sullivan said it’s easy for that dream centerpiece to turn into a nightmare disaster.

“A chimney fire can actually reach up to 3,000 degrees in just a matter of minutes,” Sullivan said. “So, it can do lots of damage to a house.”

It’s a message that resonates with homeowner Jimmy Stokes.

“This particular house doesn’t really have any sheetrock in it,” he said. “So, it’s all wood inside. So, now, I’ve got two fireplaces inside a building that’s nothing but wood. So, I want to be sure it’s safe.”

Sullivan said cleaning and best burning practices are needed to keep the fire in the fireplace and out of the chimney.

“We ask them to burn hardwood and not pine,” he said. “Pine’s the easiest to get down here, but it’s one that causes the chimney fire.”

Cleaning removes carbon build up as well as anything else that finds its way into the smoke stack.

“We find a lot of things in a chimney,” Sullivan said. “Anything that’ll climb will get into a chimney.”

In the end, it’s worth it.

“We have a fireplace,” he said, “and we‘ll find ourselves watching the fire, more than we’re watching the television.”

Sullivan said a chimney should be cleaned at least every two years, but once a year if the fireplace is used frequently.

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